Springfield (AP) –
First round draft picks changed hands at a record clip this offseason (which is really saying something). A record six teams (Illinois, Canyon Country, Outlaw, Vermont, and Troy) do not have selections in the first round of this year’s draft. This marks the THIRD straight year that Canyon Country has eschewed the 1st round of the draft in favor of MLB talent. Welcome back to the first round Ed Couch New Potatoes (who have dealt its pick away in the last three drafts) and to the Seattle Pilots (who have dealt its pick away in each of the previous two years). GM Frank Pennylegion not only gets to pick this time around, but has two choices (with a premium pick at #2 overall to boot).
The Times predicts that hitters will be over-represented in the 1st half of the draft, before the pitchers carry the day in the back half of Round 1. Overall, the Times predicts an even mix of hitters/pitchers in Round 1 this year.
Without further adieu, the following is the Springfield Times’ Annual First Round Projections.
#1) Slatington Bulldogs (from ILL) – Corey Seager (SS)
Easy selection here for the Bulldogs. Slatington traded away Jackie Bradley Jr. to move up in the draft and have no real shortstops on its roster. Seager is a certifiable offensive star and makes the ludicrously stacked Slatington lineup even more ludicrously stacked.
#2) Seattle Pilots – Trea Turner (MI/OF)
Yes, the position is correct. Turner is an athlete that played each of the three positions in the middle of the diamond for MLB’s Washington Nationals. While Frank Pennylegion may not be as inventive as the forward thinking manager of the Nats, Dusty Baker, Turner is the best athlete in the draft. Wherever he ends up, he will be a cornerstone of the Pilots for the next decade plus. In addition, those piercing brown eyes will surely win the hearts of even the most cold-hearted Pilots fan.
#3) Denville Ultras – Gary Sanchez (C)
Welcome to NASBL Ken Anderson Sr. Your welcome gift is arguably the best catching prospect this side of Johnny Bench/Buster Posey falling into your lap at #3 overall. I would hazard a guess that the last time the top power hitting card vs. both lefties and righties was the same guy, it was named X,Y (i.e Barry Bonds). The fact that this year it is coming from a 23 year old catcher (WHO CAN PLAY DEFENSE AS WELL), and that he is available at #3 is almost too good to be true.
#4) Shawnee Crows – Trevor Story (SS)
The heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki for MLB’s Colorado Rockie organization took MLB by storm in the first half of MLB’s season with 27 homers in 97 games as a shortstop before an injury derailed his season. Story will fit in nicely in Shawnee as the heir apparent to JJ Hardy and is an easy pick here for Mike Johnson.
#5) Slatington Bulldogs (from CCC) – Yu Darvish (SP)
Remember when I said that Slatington has a ludicrous offense. It does. However, there is one thing that may prevent the Bulldogs from a NASBL crown. Right now, its “Ace” would be 37 year old NASBL journeyman John Lackey. An injury shortened last two years means that Darvish is somehow available in this year’s draft. Still only 29 years old, Darvish’s career K/9 IP is 11.3. As a Starter. He struck out 498 batters in his first two full seasons. These numbers are not misprints. If he was a couple of years younger or didn’t have the checkered injury history, Darvish would give the top four drafting teams some pause. However, it would be hard to believe if a healthy Yu lasts past the Bulldogs here.
#6) Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (from SBU) – Julio Urias (SP/RP)
The Iron Pigs are another team in which the pitching side of the ball may be problematic. Based on its trades and supplemental draft picks, the Iron Pigs are apparently taking a long view in regards to addressing its pitching needs. As such, there just happens to be a 19 year old phenom who was recently the youngest pitcher in MLB history to start a game in a League Championship Series just sitting here for the taking that fits perfectly into the Iron Pigs’ plans.
#7) Georgia Roadkill – Michael Fulmer (SP)
MLB’s American League Rookie of the Year in 2016 was a 23 year old pitcher that would have won the ERA title were he to have pitched a few more innings. Fulmer is no flash in the pan, but the lack of prospect pedigree means that he is still available here for the Roadkill at #7- when, by numbers alone, he probably shouldn’t be.
#8) Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (from OJW) – David Dahl (OF)
Pairing Dahl with Urias gives the Iron Pigs a chance to rebuild in a hurry. All indications are that Dahl is athletic enough to stick at center field. If so, he just may be the next incarnation of Jim Edmonds with his combination of left handed power/defense. Could go with Willson Contreras or Alex Bregman here as well – depending on Kevin Burns’ outlook on the future of Travis D’Arnaud and Evan Longoria.
#9) Lake Champlain Cannibals – Kenta Maeda (SP)
The Cannibals look pretty much stocked on the offensive side of the diamond, but are two starters short of a full staff (side note – it is always nice when I can recycle a comment from the previous year’s article). Kenta Maeda looks like the best combination of starts/results and would be a great selection for Commissioner Beard with this pick.
#10) Grundy County Grizzlies – Jameson Taillon (SP)
The Grizz need an outfielder, but no-one here is available that looks like he wouldn’t be a reach here. As such, the Grizz may grab the starter with the most upside here. The guy who qualifies for that title is up for debate, but the Times’ money is on the highly touted 24 year old hurler for MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
#11) Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs – Willson Contereras (C)
Although the Iron Pigs may still believe in Travis D’Arnaud as its catcher of the future, the number of people that would agree has been swiftly dwindling in the past year. As such, doubling down on another future backstop would be a wise choice here for the Iron Pigs. Contreras has done nothing but hit in the minors and has a cannon arm that will play even if he slows down offensively. Could also go with Bregman here, but Kevin Burns’ still believes that Longoria has some more life in him and goes with Contreras instead.
#12) Seattle Pilots (from VFS) – Alex Bregman (3B)
Highly touted third base prospect is somehow still available here but won’t get past Frank Pennylegion. There is a chance that Kevin Burns and Lehigh Valley grab him with one of its three picks (as previously mentioned). If that is the case, look for Pennylegion to grab another young stud to pair with Trea Turner and significantly move up Seattle’s timetable to rebuild.
#13) Springfield Isotopes – Steven Matz (SP)
The Topes got significantly younger in the offseason. There is a real chance that the League Championship Series last year may mark the end of a prolonged run of competitive baseball in Springfield as other teams in its division have gotten younger/better. If so, the Topes run ended up more closely mirroring MLB’s Atlanta Braves than any other team in recent memory with numerous League Champioship Series’, World Series’ – but only one title. As such, anything goes with this pick. The Topes like left handed starters and Steven Matz has had an extremely successful start to his MLB career in his 28 starts. GM Doug Sherlag could grab Matz or another young starter here.
#14) Shawnee Crows (from TRY) – Jon Gray (SP)
Taking pitchers from MLB’s Colorado Rockies is not usually a recipe for success in NASBL. If anyone bucks this trend, Gray is the man to do it. He has the prospect pedigree and the strikeout numbers to make it work. Gray struck out 9.9 men per nine innings in 29 starts in his rookie season and somehow limited the longballs in the rarefied air of MLB’s Coors Field. Shawnee needs some starting pitching and Gray would fit nicely here pairing with his MLB teammate in Story that the Times has the Crows selecting at #4 overall.
#15) Grundy County Grizzlies (from DFW) – Max Kepler (OF)
As previously mentioned, the Grizz need some outfield help. Also as previously mentioned, outfielders are not something that this draft has a plethora of. As such, the Grizz grab the best available here. Nomar Mazara could also be the choice here. Depends on the Grizz’ scouting department. Both are raw, young talents with huge upside. Kepler is the better defender so the Times is showing him as the pick here.
#16) Ed Couch New Potatoes – Rich Hill (SP)
The New Potatoes are looking to repeat as champs and have no 2nd or 3rd round picks. The New Potatoes need another starting pitcher and will look to address that here considering the length of time between its picks. Taking a 36 year old pitcher in the 1st round typically is not suggested. However flags fly forever and when that 36 year old pitcher has the 2nd best card in the deck behind Clayton Kershaw and has an ERA of 2.00 over the last two MLB seasons, such a pick is definitely justified here.